Kentuckians for the Commonwealth Executive Director Burt Lauderdale sent this letter to CoLab Executive Director Dayna Cunningham as the protest actions he describes below were unfolding:
“We are not in a yielding frame of mind.”
That’s how author Wendell Berry described a group of twenty Kentuckians For The Commonwealth members as they entered the Kentucky Governor’s office on Friday morning. They were there with a set of demands for the Governor, all related to ending mountaintop removal and investing in a New Power future for Kentucky and Kentuckians.
The group’s request of a meeting with the Governor was at first denied, but by the afternoon, the Governor relented and met with the group for forty minutes. However, as he only agreed to one of their demands, they informed him they were not leaving his office. Initially, it looked as if they would be arrested, an outcome they anticipated and prepared for. But then the Governor said they could stay as long as they liked. So they settled in for a weekend in the lobby of the Governor’s office.
They scrambled to collect pillows and food before the office doors closed on them. But then a funny thing happened. Thanks to new and old media, the word got out and got out fast. People around the country were calling in on their cellphones, sending emails, watching live streaming video from the Capitol slumber party, tweeting and posting to facebook. A special blog, Kentucky Rising, went up with photos and press releases and profiles and interviews. By 7:00 that evening, new friends from Tampa, Florida had ordered pizza to be delivered to the protesters – enough that the group shared their dinner with the Capital custodial staff and the State Police keeping watch. The party was on.
The protesters were been in the Capitol all weekend. They conducted numerous interviews with media, organized live streaming interviews about the history of organizing in the coalfields and the state of the movement today, and they organized their own spiritual service Sunday morning.
And the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. So much food has been brought to the office threshold that the protesters have sent the overflow to the local domestic violence shelter. People have called and written from all over the world. Bill McKibben spoke about the protest in Vermont last night and he is over-nighting a petition with the signatures of 500 supportive Vermont farmers. The story has been on NPR’s national broadcast and a major story in Kentucky media. Musical events in Northern Kentucky, Louisville, and Lexington this weekend featured the stories of the protesters.
On Sunday afternoon, 150 people showed up at an impromptu rally, in solidarity with the protestors who were locked inside and could not come out. The rally was organized by a local immigrant rights organization – perhaps in recognition of KFTC’s stand and role in fighting abusive immigration reform. They delivered a homemade Mexican meal for the protesters and then led loud, sustained chant of “Si Se Puede – Yes We Can!”
Today is our long anticipated, “I Love Mountains Day” rally at the State Capitol. We are expecting a thousand people will gather at the Kentucky River. They will absorb a group that has marched from Eastern Kentucky over the previous two weeks and then march up Capital Avenue and around the State Capitol to rally on the steps. Speakers will include a retired coal miner, an Appalachian author, and Congressman John Yarmuth from Louisville. A highlight will be when the “Kentucky 14” emerge from inside the Capitol Building. We anticipate applause.
This has been an extraordinary weekend, tightly organized and totally spontaneous. We have plans for what’s next, and are preparing for the unanticipated. We are focusing all of this energy on building New Power, of every kind. Ivy Brashear, a student from Eastern Kentucky, is speaking at the rally with the message for the Governor and the legislators of “New Power is knocking on Old Power’s door!”
Wendell Berry is but one of the thousands of eloquent voices of this movement, but he is a good one. In an interview Sunday, he spoke about the future:
“All of us who are interested in stopping this terrible damage, and this terrible oppression of people, and the terrible effects that will go on and on because water flows; all of us understand that we are not approaching a time to quit.”
Here are links to lots more information about what is going on.